Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
When this article goes live, I’ll officially be on Summer Vacation for a whole week before my next job starts up again! Hooray! And after that crazy-long Slayer vs. Fighter article that I did on Wednesday, I need something quick and easy to do in today’s Iconic Design. Something simple. Something fun, and preferably, something a little short.
Today’s Iconic Design is Belkar Bitterleaf.
This is taken from the Order of the Stick wiki. You’ll remember that I did another OotS character, Elan, a few months ago. Anyway, here’s the background:
Belkar Bitterleaf is a psychotic sociopath that loves stabbing, grievous bodily harm to others, and gourmet cooking. He holds even more hatred towards Kobolds then most people and has them as a Favored Enemy. His complete lack of morals and willingness to kill is most clearly illustrated when his internal conflict takes place between two devils (one representing his usual impulsiveness, the other thinking in terms of the bigger picture) on his shoulders (his constant murdering having driven the angel completely insane). As with many of the members of the Order of the Stick, he is clearly an anti-stereotype, in the fact that most halflings are depicted as kind, jolly and altogether friendly individuals, while Belkar is none of these things. It can be assumed from the occasional personal comment that certain members of Belkar’s family share his murderous disposition. He does have a number of skills that are from his halfling heritage, like his refined sense of smell and his ability to act as a Gourmet Chef on occasion. Belkar also is very sensitive of his height, as he is short even by halfling standards. He has apparently been arrested several times, as seen by his comment that he was “familiar with arrest procedure.”
Alright, so how will we build Belkar? Fairly simply, actually.
- Ranger: Belkar is the party’s ranger. Slayer might be a more appropriate class for Belkar if he was made in Pathfinder, but the fact that he is a ranger without the mental acuity to cast ranger spells has been lampshaded often throughout the series.
- Barbarian: Belkar multiclasses barbarian fairly early on in the series.
- “Mr. Scruffy:” We’re actually going to suspend our disbelief a little bit in order to make this one work, as the game currently has no rules for Tiny or Diminutive animal companions. Still, we’re going to try our best!
Early Levels (1–7)
- Classes: Ranger 4 / Barbarian 3
- Feats: Power Attack (1st), Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Style), Weapon Focus: Dagger (3rd), Double Slice (5th), Raging Vitality (7th)
- Abilities: Fast Movement, Favored Enemy (humans +2), Favored Terrain (Urban +2), Hunter’s Bond (Cat [small]), Rage (Con + 9 rounds/day), Rage Powers (No Escape), Track +2, Trap Sense +1, Uncanny Dodge, Wild Empathy
This is a fairly accurate opening-level build for Belkar, Hunter’s Bond aside. We know Belkar is a mass-murderer and he hates humans, so picking humans as his favored enemy makes a lot of sense. I actually like going unmodified barbarian/ranger for this build because it fits the “lite” theme of Order of the Stick fairly well. I did something similar with my Elan build.
Other then that, this is a fairly standard two-weapon fighting build. Because Belkar’s Small, he needs the extra Strength bonus from raging in order to make up from the –0.5 point of damage he suffers on average from using a 1d3 damage Small dagger instead of a 1d4 damage Medium dagger. Surprisingly enough, there are plenty of ways for Belkar to go all-out damage wise. Let’s move on, shall we?
Mid Levels (8 –14)
- Classes: Ranger 6 / Barbarian 8
- Feats: Power Attack (1st), Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Style), Weapon Focus: dagger (3rd), Double Slice (5th), Raging Vitality (7th), Improved Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Style), Risky Striker (9th), Lunge (11th), Two-Weapon Rend (13th)
- Abilities: Damage Reduction 1/–, Fast Movement, Favored Enemy (humans +4, reptilian humanoids +2), Favored Terrain (Urban +2), Hunter’s Bond (Cat [small]), Improved Uncanny Dodge, Rage (Con + 9 rounds/day), Rage Powers (No Escape, Reckless Abandon, Surprise Accuracy), Track +3, Trap Sense +2, Uncanny Dodge, Wild Empathy
So I’m sure at least a few of you are wondering what Risky Striker does, right? Risky Striker is a halfling-unique feat that essentially allows you to penalize your AC to gain a damage bonus against opponents at least two size categories larger than you. For Belkar, this means that he can deal more damage against Larger or larger opponents. This bonus stacks with Power Attack, which makes it pretty nifty. To make things even more amusing, Belkar has the reckless abandon rage power, which grants him a bonus on attack rolls at the cost of his AC. Currently, Belkar suffers a –3 to his AC while raging for a +3 bonus on his attack rolls, which counteracts most of Power Attack’s penalty for Belkar’s iterative attacks and is a flat bonus on his first attack, thanks to Furious Focus. As a result, Belkar turns into a glass canon that is easy to hit in combat but capable of nearly never missing his mark in combat. To add insult to injury, he can use surprise accuracy once per rage for an additional attack roll bonus, preferably on one of his low-bonus rolls.
Belkar’s cat isn’t really all that tough, as depicted in the show where it rarely fights anything that isn’t a low-level opponent and can’t handle itself well in battle. That said, it is good for using the aid another action to further help Belkar strike his foes, which should be the animal’s primary function in combat. Where Belkar is a class canon, Mr. Scruffy is a party ally to help Belkar flank and hit reliably.
- Classes: Ranger 9 / Barbarian 11
- Feats: Power Attack (1st), Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Style), Weapon Focus: dagger (3rd), Double Slice (5th), Raging Vitality (7th), Improved Two-Weapon Fighting (Combat Style), Risky Striker (9th), Lunge (11th), Two-Weapon Rend (13th), Boon Companion (15th), Greater Two-Weapon Fighting (17th), Vital Strike (19th)
- Abilities: Damage Reduction 2/–, Fast Movement, Favored Enemy (humans +4, reptilian humanoids +2), Favored Terrain (Urban +4, Desert +2), Greater Rage, Hunter’s Bond (Cat [small]), Improved Uncanny Dodge, Rage (Con + 9 rounds/day), Rage Powers (No Escape, Powerful Blow, Reckless Abandon, Surprise Accuracy), Swift Tracker, Track +4, Trap Sense +3, Uncanny Dodge, Wild Empathy, Woodland Stride
This build keeps a fairly even split between ranger and barbarian, though I think that Greater Rage is better for this build than another bonus combat feat and another favored enemy, so I opted for a 9 – 11 split instead of an even 10. Through his barbarian levels, Belkar gets another one-shot bonus on damage rolls from his powerful blow rage power and an even larger Strength bonus from his greater rage. On the ranger side of things, Belkar gets woodland stride, the desert favored terrain (thanks Tarquin!) and the ability to track more swiftly, which he probably won’t do much. If Belkar’s Wisdom were high enough, he’d end the game being able to cast 2nd level Wisdom spells, though being able to cast 1st-level spells for instant enemy is all a ranger can really ask for. I’m sure if instant enemy was in his campaign world, he’d consider getting a wand of it or something.
But ultimately speaking, Belkar’s just a lot of numbers. He has a bunch of really cool options to maximum penalties in stuff he doesn’t care about (defense) to be able to gain bonuses (or negate penalties) in stuff he does care about (slaughtering people).
Mythic Belkar would be simple; he’d be a Champion path character who maximized on the mythic rage and endless hatred abilities. He would pick up additional bonuses to his Strength and would opt for multiple selections of the precision ability to maximize the pain he deals. He would also unquestionably select aerial assault: the ability to make a leaping charge at opponents for extra damage is well-documented in Belkar’s tool kit in the Order of the Stick and this ability would work well for him.
Here are some quick fly-notes for Mr. Scruffy, Belkar’s Act III animal companion. Mr. Scruffy is an ordinary house cat in the comics, which is something we can’t replicate for Belkar using the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules, so we’re going to have to settle for a Small cat using what we’ve got. Because of Belkar’s multiclassing, Mr. Scruffy doesn’t have maximum power compared to other rangers, even with Belkar’s investment in the Boon Companion feat. So, what does Mr. Scruffy do in combat?
He aids. He does a lot of aiding.
Grab Combat Expertise to take advantage of the cat’s awesome Dexterity bonus and pick up feats that allow Mr. Scruffy to support Belkar in combat. Bodyguard to give people an AC bonus when they’re attacked, Swift Aid to use aid another quickly (or with multiple targets), and so on. Many of those feats can be found on the Bodyguard animal archetype, which also rebuilds Mr. Scruffy to make him more useful for Belkar. I totally recommend picking that one up if you’re allowed to.
And there you have it; a functioning build for Belkar Bitterleaf. What do you think? Does this build deliver on the promise of a sexy shoeless god of war, or does it fall flat? Is this a build you would consider using (or employing) in your campaign or does a halfling barbarian sound ridiculous to you? What changes would you have made to my build? Leave your answers and comments below, and until next time, take care!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune chunk of XP, and his favorite pastime is reading webcomics.